.:seven years later:.
Estra Moondance picked up the basket of wet laundry, her bare feet squelching in the grey mud.
“Finally!” Her little sister cried out with joy and picked herself up from the grassy knoll she’d been sitting on. Clenched in her tiny right fist was a white daisy. Estra frowned as she made her way up the path, her sibling skipping along behind her. “Perhaps it would have gotten done quicker if you’d bothered to help me,” She muttered, casting a glance behind her to see that Frindel had become preoccupied with a large silver beetle in the tall grass.
“But I’m only this many!” Frindel protested, holding out seven fingers, grinning like a lunatic.
“Old enough to be able to help me,” Estra argued balancing the basket on one hip so that she could take hold of her sisters hand.
They helped each other up the steep slope, slipping and sliding the whole way. Neither spoke for a full three minutes until a bullfrog made a deep throaty noise causing Frindel to fall over, giggling insanely. Estra smiled at her silly sister. She hauled her upright, inspecting her now muddy white dress and tangled hair.
“Aunt Lila will pitch a fit,” She sighed, wiping a fleck of mud from Frindel’s forehead. “Auntila” She mimicked her sister. For as long as Estra could remember, Frindel had called their Aunt Lila ‘Auntila’ blurring the two words together into one. It was a habit she had intended to correct someday. Frindel screwed up her face and proceeded to imitate their guardian with perfect accuracy, down to the hobble and crooked fingers, “You girls better not get your pretty clothes all filthy!”
Estra was about to scold her but decided against it and allowed her mirth to overflow into laughter.
“Come on, we’ve got to get these inside before they mold,”
Frindel skipped ahead of her sister, trilling a pretty tune like a song bird.
Fire in the sky
Don’t ask why
We all fall down
It was a simple tune that many children of Aether knew well. It was a song that Estra knew by heart – and despised. The Sisters were well known for their nursery rhyme propaganda. This was one of many they had sung.
Estra hated the Sisters with a passion. They were reclusive matrons who lived in the tall spire that overlooked the city. The Spire was the temple of the goddess, Lumia, who had sculpted the land from her stillborn child, Aether. In the old stories, it was said that Lumia gave birth to two stillborn children, Aether and Nox whose dead bodies formed the two lands. Nox and Aether killed each other in the womb and the people that thrived upon them still continued the fight to this day. The Sisters say that Nox murdered Aether, and then died from his own sins. Estra always thought it was all rubbish. She had never believed in the goddess nor in her children. What use was all this fighting when the goddess’ children had died long ago?
Each song the Sisters sung hinted of a world before this. A world crafted of fire and smoke. In Estra’s opinion, the line between reality and myth had become too blurred by the Sisters.
“Look Estra, a bunny!” Frindel squeaked. She pointed to a long eared white rabbit that lay huddled in the tall grass. Upon hearing her voice it vanished into the thick undergrowth of the forest. Frindel gave a little sigh of exasperation.
“There will be other rabbits,” Estra told her sister, laughing at her disappointment that the elusive creature had disappeared.
She switched the basket of laundry from one hip to the other, cursing her protruding hip bones. It had suddenly grown quiet. Estra paused for a moment, looking round, trying to figure out why there was a lack of sound. She realized that Frindel was nowhere to be seen, vanishing as quickly as the rabbit had.
All at once, it became all too clear. The laundry basket crashed to the ground, clean clothes spilling out onto the white soil.
“Frindel!” Estra turned and dove into the forest, ignoring the scrapes that formed on her arms from the thorny rose bushes. A few forlorn petals became entangled in her long hair as she ran.
Branches tore into her dress. Stones and other sharp unseen objects embedded themselves into the bottoms of her feet. Panic pushed her heart into her throat. “Frindel?!”
Stumbling over a strawberry vine, Estra pitched forward into a clearing. She tried to brace herself for impact but her wrists collapsed and she fell in a heap in the moss and soil. Birds chirruped in the trees, watching the strange pale girl with growing curiosity.
The birds weren’t the only ones observing Estra. A boy was huddled amongst the rose bushes and strawberry vines, watching her.
Estra pulled herself up from the ground and wiped the grey filth from her tattered dress. She tried to take a few steps but her feet pained her. Sitting upon a large boulder in the clearing, she proceeded to pick out the pieces of stone from the bottoms of her feet with her long nails. Black blood oozed from the nicks and cuts on her arms. The soles of her feet were a mess of ebony. The boy was fascinated by her white hair and shining pearlescent eyes. He watched her not as his kind usually would, as though they were observing a captured animal. Instead, he watched her as a cat might watch its owner, curious yet respectful of his or her place.
He stepped backwards, moving away from the clearing. His boot snapped a branch on the forest floor.
Estra’s head whipped up, her eyes wild, frightened.
“Hello?” She murmured, rising unsteadily to her bloodied feet. “Is someone there?”
The boy shrank back into the bushes, afraid she would see him.
“Hello?” Estra pushed back branches, peering into the shade of the forest. The boy was crouched among rose thorns, in plain sight. The girl took in his appearance, his military uniform with gleaming black buttons and his handsome dark eyes.
“Hello there,” She whispered. He seemed poised to dash away at any moment. Estra was afraid a loud noise might scare him off and he would leap away like a young buck.
His black bangs hung across his face, hiding his expression.
“Hello,” He replied, rising to meet her gaze. He bowed clumsily, stumbling back a few steps as he did so.
She stepped forward, letting the branches close behind her. The boy stared at her in awe. She was perhaps the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, torn clothing, bleeding wounds and all.
“You’re hurt,” He stepped forward cautiously. Would she fly away like a bird at his approach?
“Just a few scratches. Its nothing,”
Never once did it cross either of their minds that they were speaking with the enemy.
“May I?” He gestured to the deepest mark on her forearm. It was bleeding profusely, dripping down her fingers and onto the ground.
She extended her hand, allowing him to examine the wound.
“Here,” The boy reached into a messenger bag slung over his shoulder and withdrew a roll of white cloth. Estra wondered why a soldier of Nox would carry a white bandage with him. He tore a strip from it and wrapped it tightly around the scratch, securing it with a knot.
She drew back from him and examined the bandage.
“Thank you,” She told him, a long deep nod of kindness directed towards him.
“My pleasure,” He replied, bowing again, this time with all the grace and elegance of a ballet dancer. He turned and vanished abruptly into the woods. Estra stood there for a few heartbeats, wondering if the strange boy might return. But he did not. A name came to mind.
Estra turned and resumed the search for her sister, only to find she was standing right behind her. In her arms was the rabbit, content as it nibbled on the remains of the flower she had picked.
“Estra. He…” Frindel’s eyes were as large as saucers. Estra raised an open palm to silence her.
“We will not speak of this,” Frindel’s mouth opened to protest but her older sister cut her off, “Is that clear?”
Frindel sighed and set the rabbit down. It stayed for a moment by her feet before hopping away. Estra’s little sister had a knack for taming wild animals. It was her ‘special gift’ as the Sisters would call it.
“Come on. Let’s get the laundry and go home before Aunt Lila proclaims us dead,”
As Estra had predicted, their Aunt was less than pleased about the laundry. However, she was more concerned with Frindel’s appearance as opposed to Estra’s. This was strange because Estra still had scratches on her arms and left bloody footprints on the floor.
“Oh for heaven’s sake how hard is it not to wallow about in the muck?” Aunt Lila threw up her hands in exasperation, shaking her head.
Estra stifled her laughter and ducked her head, giving off the impression of shame. Her sister stood obediently beside her. Her hands were clasped behind her back as she rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet. This created a strange noise on the wooden floor because her feet were all muddy. To Estra, it was like nails on a chalkboard, punctuating Aunt Lila’s scolding. She wanted to tell Frindel to stop but was afraid to open her mouth in their Aunt’s presence.
“I ought to send you girls to bed without dinner,”
The squeaking sound of Frindel’s fidgeting ceased.
Estra’s heart caught in her throat. It would be the second day without a meal.
“But I won’t.”
She looked up, surprised at this turn of events. Her Aunt was a strict woman who believed children should be raised harshly to get a taste of the real world before they had to live in it.
“Go upstairs and get Frindel changed will you?” Lila Mistfire’s eyes were softer than usual, shining out pearlescent in her aged face.
Estra did not question the change of personality, proceeding to nudge a stunned Frindel up the steps.
“What’s wrong with Auntila?” She whispered to Estra. A puzzled look altered the petite features of her face.
“I don’t know Frin,” Estra murmured.
Frindel was Estra’s sole source of happiness. The only reason she still breathed was to care for her sister. It was true, she had considered suicide. Who wouldn’t in a world such as theirs? But she knew she could never do such a thing. Perhaps she knew when she set her eyes on Frindel for the first time.
The tiny bundle in her mother’s arms seemed unreal in the wake of devastation. The tears that sprung from Te’lana’s eyes were of sadness instead of joy. Little Frindel’s cries were hollow compared to Estra’s own sobs. All of it was wrong. It wasn’t meant to be this way.
“Come here and meet your new sister,” Te’lana held out the squirming child for her eldest daughter to receive. Frindel was still coated in a slick ebony layer of blood. Her small ivory face, stained with black, was scrunched up as she wailed. She wanted to return to the darkness, hating this bright world of white.
Estra took the child and wiped her clean, knowing her mother was too upset to do so. She didn’t blame her mother for her behavior. Te’lana had given birth with her eyes fixated upon the dead body of her husband which lay with them in the same room. Everyone had been a little distracted
So it was only natural when her Aunt bearing a candle entered the room that Estra saw the black flecks upon her mother’s arms.
After giving her little sister a bath, ignoring her loud complaints, Estra tucked her into bed and headed up the dark passage to Te’lana’s room.
The room was positioned in the tower which had once been an old silo, now connected to the house. The house itself had been a barn. Estra had no shame in the fact that her family was terribly poor, reduced to living in such an abode. She suspected that Aunt Lila had other reasons for not feeding them every day, reasons such as a lack of money.
Estra’s thoughts were broken by a hot splash of candle wax on her hand. She winced, raising the white flame higher to illuminate the dark winding passage to the top of the tower. Later, the hot black burn would fade to a white prismatic scar, barely visible against her pale complexion.
All the people of her world had moon white skin, no matter what city they resided in. Even the dark haired citizens of Nox were as pale as snow. She shuddered at the blasphemous thought of them, their dark eyes haunting her memories. Her father’s screams met her ears as she remembered that fateful night.
The alarm chimes sounded, their horrifying tones in a minor key screeched across the city, arousing even the deepest of dreamers. Cries of fright echoed into oblivion, smoke and flame alighting the night. Estra huddled in her bed, drawing the covers up to her chin. The door to her room banged open, her extremely pregnant mother stood there holding a candle aloft.
Estra ran to her, wrapping herself around her mother’s swollen stomach, pressing her ear to it and hearing the heartbeat of her soon to be sister within.
A sharp bang startled them both. Te’lana Moondance dropped the candle in fright. Its white light went out, a trail of smoke reaching Estra’s nostrils. The sound had been the first gunshot of many to follow. The First Guard at the Wall would fall that night, Estra’s father among them.
Estra pushed open the old wooden door that led to her mother’s bedchamber.
In that small round room was their entire family’s belongings. From the dresser to the photographs to the elaborate bed draped in white velvet, it was what was left of their old life. Everything else had been sold off. After Captain Ophrin Moondance had died, they were left without a man to earn money. In the city of Lumious, it was blasphemous for women to work. Personally, Estra thought this was ridiculous. Many widows still lived today from the attack seven years ago. They had no way of earning money for their families. How did they expect them to live?
Estra’s mother coughed. Te’lana’s frail form was buried in a mountain of blankets. The only part of her that was visible was her head.
“Hello Mother,” Estra forced herself to smile as she approached her mother’s bedside.
Black flecks covered Te’lana’s otherwise perfect white skin. Her eyes were as dark as the night sky.
It was this strange disease that cursed the rare few of Lumious that caused such hatred towards Nox. The Sisters claimed that the people of Nox were demonspawn. Estra didn’t know what to believe, but she did know that when she was hurt she bled and bruised black, that sickness came in the color of ink and that the people of Nox brought fire down upon her city. But was every citizen of Nox truly evil?
“Estra,” Her mother’s eyes softened as she looked upon her daughter’s face.
Estra went to her. Te’lana raised a weak and frail hand to run her fingers through her pure white hair which framed her heart shaped face.
“My girl is all grown up,” Her mother smiled. She caressed Estra’s face, expressing her maternal love towards her.
Estra’s heart panged with loss. Te’lana was dying, it was only a matter of time before the illness spread to every part of her body and killed her leaving her as black as tar, a shadow of the woman she had once been.
It was this knowledge that caused Estra’s soul agony when she set her eyes upon her mother.
“Has Aunt Lila brought you dinner?” Estra asked, clasping the hand that was not exploring the features of her face.
“Yes, and may I say it was delicious,”
Estra knew this was a lie because all they had had for days was cabbage. But she smiled anyway before releasing Te’lana’s hand and standing to leave.
“No. Stay,” Te’lana grasped her arm, her voice small and childlike. It was filled with fear.
Something was wrong, but Estra knew better than to ask what. The illness must have been causing her pain again.
So she stayed there, perched on the edge of the bed until sleep claimed them both.
There was a brilliant spark in the pitch black. It light up like a flame before her, a thousand different colors that she could not name. Reaching out a hand to touch it, Estra found the little light intangible like mist. She sensed it was there with her fingertips but she didn’t truly feel it. The spark grew, illuminating her surroundings. Estra was standing in a meadow, filled with rare and unholy colors. She was like a child again, exploring this new unfathomable world with wide eyed wonder. When she looked down at her hands, she found that they were tinged with color. Estra’s hair flew into her face, also colored brilliantly. Her mind struggled to name the color of the grass beneath her feet.
Estra awoke with a start. She found herself lying awkwardly on her mother’s bed, her hand still knotted in Te’lana’s.
An unfamiliar feeling swelled in her heart. Something was horribly wrong. The skin of her mother’s hand was cold as ice. She was afraid to look up. A childlike fear grew in her bosom, taking root in her soul.
Her eyelids fluttered like butterflies, wanting to shut out the awful sight when Estra looked up. There was no mistaking the awful scent of rotting flesh, or the pitch black, deadened eyes. However, it was only when she felt the burning sensation on her face of tears, crystalline, raining down to stain the sheets, that she knew Te’lana was dead.
“We are gathered here today to honor the life of Te’lana Moondance,”
Wrong, all wrong, just like that night.
“She was the wife of the late Ophrin Moondance,”
The Sister’s voice was steady, bored even from reading off the little white sheet in her hand.
“Te’lana has left behind two daughters, Estra and Frindel. They will be under the care of their aunt, Lila Mistfire.”
A handful of Sisters had traveled from the Spire for the funeral - if it could even be called a funeral. According to their rituals, funerals had to be solemn filled with facts. The life of the dead would be forgotten, a memory best not remembered.
They were lowering the glass coffin into the ground. Her mother’s black marks had been covered with a white powder, her midnight eyes shut tight. Estra had the compulsion to move forward and take in once last glimpse of Te’lana’s face. The pits walls were white but the shadows made it seem dark almost grey. Estra’s mother was a shining splash of white against the canvas.
A gasp escaped Estra’s lips. It was like the dream she had received the night before. A tiny spark grew and enveloped her mother, bathing her in the strange color. Against the grey soil a vision of something otherworldly formed.
Her mother’s hair…It was –
A shovelful of ivory soil shattered the effect. Hands of robed Sisters pushed her back from the gaping maw of the earth.
“No,” The plea came forth from her soul. So beautiful, in those last moments that her mother had been in the daylight. Now all that was left was a patch of freshly overturned white ground. In her confusion, Estra had remained standing at the grave until the Sisters had finished and the crowd had dispersed.
Had she simply imagined the brilliance that had engulfed Te’lana’s body? Was it an illusion, a trick of the light?
Lila grasped her shoulder, startling her from her reverie.
“Come child,” She beckoned softly, pulling her from the scene.
The Sisters had laid heaps of white roses with white stems upon the gravesite. All wrong.
If her mother had arranged her own funeral, Estra was certain that white flowers would not have been present.
Estra noticed that though the crowd had gone, one boy still remained watching from the sidelines. Catching his image in the corner of her eye, she had hoped it was the boy from the woods but it was not. It was Raxer. His gaze was hungry, possessive, eyes fixated upon her. It was a look that said, you are mine.
Raxer was Estra’s betrothed. It had not been her choice, but his. In Lumious, women had no say in society; they could not pick their husbands. Estra was determined however, to defy the law and refuse Raxer’s hand in marriage. Raxer had serenaded her many times, taking her to remote places and proposing marriage. When she refused, he would demand that she marry or he would report her to the Sisters. The threat still hung over her head, a dark cloud that threatened to unleash a wild storm. Before, it had been her mother that protected her. The law stated that a guardian had to approve a marriage and Te’lana had never been fond of Raxer. Now that she was gone, there was nothing stopping Raxer but Aunt Lila who would no doubt accept him.
It had been two days since Te’lana’s death. Estra stood at the grave, contemplating the headstone which read ‘Te’lana Moondance’ etched into white marble. In her arms was a bouquet of white daisies she had picked from the field her sister had played in. She knew that they would bring a smile to her mother’s lips.
“You left too soon.” Estra murmured. A slight breeze tousled her hair. In the distance, wind chimes sounded ethereal and hollow.
The bouquet was dropped unceremoniously to the freshly overturned soil. Estra walked away, her white dress whipping about her legs in the sudden wind, bare feet padding silently over the white ground.
Estra walked the roads lined with empty houses towards home. The town had once bustled with life. Because it was so close to the wall, the people had fled, fearing another attack. There were still a few brave occupants, who now emerged from the shadows to greet Estra and give their condolences. She muttered her thanks and continued onwards, her shoulders hunched against the wind.
“Estra,” A sharp commanding voice startled her and she shied sideways, away from the speaker. Meeting Raxer’s gaze, she paused to see what he wanted. He was standing in the alley between two glass houses, the light spilling through the walls casting strange shadows on his face.
“I’m terribly sorry about your mother,” His expression revealed his true intent. The corners of his mouth turned upwards, a devilish look in his eye.
Estra turned away and walked faster, her heart yearning for home and the promise of a warm meal.
The sun was setting by the time Estra reached the old birch barn which sat at the bottom of a hill. The wild farm animals that still lived nearby greeted her with an assortment of bleats and cries. The herd of cows pricked up their ears at her approach, motivating the steer to guide them away.
Estra found her sister curled up in the front yard fast asleep with a lamb by her side. The mother sheep was nibbling at a few flyaway strands of Frindel’s hair. Estra smiled at the sight, tiptoeing around them to enter the barn.
“Aunt Lila?” The double doors banged behind her, echoing around the large space. The barn was organized into different ‘rooms’ by various pieces of furniture, mostly bookcases. Estra walked down the ‘hall’ made of bookcases to the dining room. When she emerged into the candlelight she was met with a peculiar scene.
In the corner of the room at the dining table was Raxer, a cup of tea in his hand from her mother’s precious fine china. Estra’s heart paused for a moment before taking up a panicked staccato rhythm.
“Estra! You’re just in time. I found this lovely young man at our door asking for you,” Aunt Lila was busying herself at the gas stove, cooking something. Did Aunt Lila have no emotions? Surely she was miserable at the loss of her sister. To Estra it certainly didn’t seem that way, playing host to the first random stranger that appeared at their doorstep.
“It is lovely to see you again Miss Moondance,” Raxer’s voice dripped with sarcasm.
How on earth had he arrived at the house before her? Estra was sure she had seen him in the alley in town.
She did not reply to his words. Keeping a cautious eye on him, she seated herself at the table opposite to him.
“Estra, I don’t bite,” He grinned at her but it appeared to Estra that he was baring his teeth at her.
She knew it was all an act for her aunt’s sake. Aunt Lila placed a plate of salad topped with rose petals in front of Raxer. “However,” He said, pointing at the salad and smiling at Aunt Lila, “I will take a bite out of this,”
Aunt Lila laughed like a school girl, taking a seat at the head of the table. Estra picked the white rose petals out of her salad. She wouldn’t have Aunt Lila attempting to make a romantic gesture. Taking a deep breath, she decided that the only way to get rid of Raxer was to proclaim her dislike of him.
“Raxer is there a reason you’re here?”
Raxer set his fork down, “The girl speaks!” Aunt Lila giggled at this. “Yes, there is a reason my dear Estra. For the fifth and final time I would like to ask you, and your dear Aunt, for your hand in marriage,”
Aunt Lila clapped her hands together gleefully, “Oh my! How wonderful! I haven’t been to a real wedding in six years!”
Estra stifled a groan and closed her eyes, hoping that when she opened them again Raxer would be gone. It didn’t work.
“She’s speechless!” Aunt Lila cried.
“Aunt Lila….” Estra began. The cheerful look fell from her aunt’s face.
“My dear whatever is the matter?” Raxer took a large bite of his salad, pieces falling from his mouth back onto his plate.
Estra was so disgusted by this she could hardly keep the bile down in her throat. She stood, knocking her chair over with a clatter.
“Excuse me,” She murmured, turning and running from the room.
Estra’s hot tears spilled into the river where she went to wash the laundry or to enjoy the sight of the prismatic dragonflies humming over the surface of the water. She didn’t care about her dress getting soiled by the mud, or the scabs broken open on her feet from running. All she could think about was her little sister curled up with the lamb. She didn’t want a life with Raxer. He was a selfish monster. Who would take care of her sister if she left to live with Raxer? Sobs choked her, the tears making ripples in the water.
When she caught her reflection when the river stilled, she splashed at it with her hand, breaking the image into a thousand shards.
“Why are you crying?”
Estra became silent. The voice had come from behind her.
A shadow fell over her, blocking the sunlight. She knew who it was; she didn’t need to turn around to find out.
“What?” Her voice broke. She wiped the tears from her eyes and turned her head to look at the boy.
He seated himself on the wet ground beside her. The Nox soldier looked the same as when she had left him in the woods.
“Why are you crying?” The boy repeated. He plucked petals from a daisy he had picked, dropping them in the water. They both watched as they floated away, caught by the current. Estra felt caught by the current herself, unable to change her path.
She met the boys gaze and felt hypnotized by his ebony eyes. She found herself telling him about Raxer, her mother’s death and her aunt’s eagerness for her to marry.
“He sounds awful,” The boy frowned, contemplating the flower now stripped of its petals.
“He is awful. I don’t know how to tell my aunt that I don’t want to marry him. She’s acting like she already approves of him.”
The Nox boy nodded, tossing the flower stem aside, “I understand your situation. My father wants me to marry this dreadful girl. She has no personality. The only thing she cares about is how many people of Aether she could kill when she gets out onto the battlefield.” He closed his eyes and shuddered. An image of a fierce woman with long black hair slicing her way through hordes of white, spilling black blood upon the ground, rose in the boy’s mind. The mere thought created fear in his young heart.
Estra couldn’t imagine what it would be like in Nox, every child being raised to become a warrior. However, she thought it couldn’t be that bad if women and men were both treated equally, both capable of going to war. Perhaps they were also thought to be capable of other things there as well.
“Who are you?” Estra murmured, taking in his tattered military uniform.
“I used to be Kin Ravenwing. But I don’t know who I really am anymore,” He murmured, staring off into the distance as though there was something there that only he could see.
“I’m Estra Moondance,”
Estra offered her hand. He grasped it tightly.
“Promise you won’t tell anyone I’m here?” He asked, raising a dark eyebrow.
She smiled, “I promise,”
A bullfrog chirruped somewhere among the rushes. Estra jumped in surprise, her hand breaking free of Kin’s grasp. He laughed at this, turning his gaze to the frog which jumped out from the river side and leaped away.
“You are easily frightened,” Kin commented, observing the strange white girl from the corner of his eye.
She looked away, blushing a warm grey that crept up her cheeks and over her nose.
“I have every reason to be skittish,” Estra replied, “I’m sitting next to a soldier of Nox after all,”
Kin nodded thoughtfully, fingering the black button on his jacket.
“I’m not exactly a soldier anymore,” He confided, his dark eyes searching hers for a sign that she could be trusted.
“How so?” The more Estra looked into his eyes, the more convinced she was that he wasn’t dangerous after all.
“I ran away,” He whispered as though the bullfrogs were eavesdropping in the rushes. Perhaps they were, Estra mused; perhaps they found it as a source of entertainment.
“Why?” It was an unnecessary question in an already awkward conversation. Kin stiffened. He scooped up a white stone from the river bank and skipped it across the water. It bounced three times before sinking into the clear water. He picked up another stone and rubbed it between thumb and forefinger.
“Because I didn’t want to kill anyone,” He murmured.
Kin threw the rock as hard as he could. It sailed through the air, a white disc, landing on the other side of the river. It hit the water with a plop, just missing the opposite bank.
“But they’ll kill you here,” Estra realized. He wouldn’t last long hiding in the woods so close to the village. If word got out that there was a Nox child near, a hunt would be organized.
He released a deep sigh full of longing which sent white wisps of breath into the air.